This tale has little to do with woodworking, but it is cool nonetheless.
Years ago, I worked in the Electronics/AV department at a local school district. I was the designated Building Intercom Guy (Mr. BIG), so it was my job to install, repair, and maintain all of the school intercom systems in the entire District, so that the principals would have a means to yell at the kids all day. Or, a couple of kids could yell at all the other kids in the school by delivering the daily announcements with volume and gain cranked to 11.
Of course, the most important function was the integration of fire and emergency tones into the systems.
In the course of this work, I got to see some areas of the schools that very few others saw or even dared to venture…underground service tunnels, catacomb-like crawl spaces, cavernous ceilings, dungeon –like utility/furnace/service rooms, scary auditorium catwalks, and the worst of all – student classrooms!
I pulled miles of intercom wire through these areas, and drilled lots of holes through all types of walls – cinder block, brick, lath, drywall, you name it.
I teetered from ladders, tight-roped on ceiling beams, and rode scissor lifts high into the atmosphere (OK….gym ceilings).
Intercom systems are very much like a regular electronics circuit, except that they are spread out over a vast building-sized area. So, in order to navigate this giant ‘circuit board’, one must do a great deal of walking (or crawling). Of course, out of necessity, it is wise to carry around all the tools and supplies required to perform this work. There is nothing that compares to walking the entire length of a school, especially a high school, only to find that I had left a needed tool back in the van….
So, I had all of my essential tools conveniently arranged in a leather tool pouch modified to be slung over my shoulder.
One of the less savory places to install intercom wire was in one of those ‘portable classrooms’ that they would park behind the main building when the school overflowed with too many students. These are essentially mobile homes modified to be one or two classrooms.
Installing intercoms in these units entailed ‘fishing’ wire through underground conduits connecting the mobile to the main building. The conduits usually emerged somewhere underneath the trailer, which means that one had to belly-crawl, sometimes in very tight clearances, to pull the wire and drill a hole at the right place through the floor. This is not a job for any who suffers from claustrophobia or arachnophobia!
Anyway, it was on one such job that I had a terrible experience:
After a pleasant afternoon of crawling on my belly under a trailer, pulling wire, and fighting off marauding black widows, I completed the job. Emerging into daylight, I happily reached for my screwdriver to re-attach the trailer skirting that had been removed for access.
I made a horrible discovery: my prized Snap-On ratcheting screwdriver was missing from its customary spot in the tool pouch! Oh, no… It can’t be…..
I pulled back the corner of the skirting enough for me to shine a flashlight underneath the trailer. Sure enough, about forty feet away, lying in the dirt, was my cherished screwdriver, shining bright orange in the flashlight beam, surrounded by sneering spiders! Yep, it had escaped un-noticed from my tool pouch while I was wallowing in the dirt.
“Forget it” I said. It was late in the day, I was tired, I didn’t feel like crawling under there again to wrest my prize away from those eight-legged beasties.
“I’ll come back another day”
As it turned out, that ‘other day’ didn’t occur for well over a year. I happened to have another task to perform at that particular school, so while I was there I figured I might as well suck it up and go after that screwdriver.
After removing a piece of skirting, I was delighted to discover that the tool was still there. A little bit of joyous belly crawling and I was again in possession of my long lost treasure. I didn’t even encounter any spiders!
The screwdriver was still in as good shape as the day I lost it: no rust, no spots, no cobwebs.
The tool has since been part of my kit through three other places of employment. It is now retired and resides in the handsawgeek garage workshop.
If it weren’t for the bright orange plastic handle, it would even be allowed into the “Hand Tool Only, No Plastics Zone!”